A Novel’s Writing

 

how to write a novel

 

This is the third in the series my novel-writing journey. You can read the first two posts here: On Inspiration and here: On Research.

As I writer, I am also a reader, and among the many many books I read, of course, are the books on writing, and of course there are many different methods of writing a novel, and the writing of a novel can change from one book to the next, even for the same author. Here’s my writing process, for this novel.

Working title: ‘On Demon’s Shores’, a play on words of the location ‘Van Dieman’s Land’, started 3 and a half years ago on a bushwalk with my now-husband. That was December 2012. A woman – Elspeth – standing over the grave of her infant son. I knew straight away it was a historical fiction, and, having a Masters in History, I thought I knew what areas I was familiar with, and what areas would need a bit more research. I planned to write my novel during Nanowrimo* the following year and spent the following eleven months reading in the areas I knew I needed to brush up on; like Scottish folk magic, and colonial history – especially the interactions (good and bad) between the Aborigines and the settlers.

By November 2013 I had a folder thick with notes, as well as the odd scene that came to me through the year: One from the point of view of Elspeth’s daughter, another from her dead husband. Scenes of Elspeth’s childhood had filled several pages, and it was from these scenes I started to write: born with a caul – a sign of one with the Sight – Elspeth followed her grandmother’s footsteps and became cunning-woman of her village. How she got to Van Dieman’s Land was easy – as a convict – but why? What did she do? And why did she do it if life was following a path it should?

That draft brought up many more questions than before, and really revealed how little I knew of the tiny details that would bring my story to life. 2014 was back into the research again, writing the odd scene here or there all the while researching those odd little points that would make my story ‘real’: like what period the colonial government offered land grants to former convicts, and when the Queen’s Orphanage first opened, and what happened to the children of convicts who were brought out with their parents.

Big changes were happening in life that year too – the birth of my third child, and the closure of my older children’s most wonderful little school.

When Nanowrimo 2014 began I was a Nano-rebel for the first time in my 5 years of taking part, almost completely re-writing that first draft, keeping only the few scenes I liked.

2015 was more a mixture. More research, several redrafts, and always reading – both fiction and non-fiction, anything to help me connect with my characters, experience life as they may have known it: Elemental by Amanda Curtain, Journey to the Stone Country by Alex Miller, Roving Party by Rohan Wilson, That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott.

Another re-draft over the 30 odd days of Nanowrimo, squashed into the gaps between homeschooling and caring for a now walking toddler (and achievable only with a supportive husband). But Nanowrimo that  year I had a different aim. By now I’d been over the story so many times, and removed the dull, unimportant bits, and clarified the story, and really felt I knew where it was going. Now I needed to polish it to the best of my ability, ready for the outside input. Late January 2016 I sent the story off to beta-readers, mid-March I received 3 different readers comments, and reworked the story yet again. Next step was to send it to a Manuscript Assessor [The Tasmanian Writer’s Centre offers affordable manuscript assessment]. The Manuscript Assessment was everything I needed. I reworked the story, changing some sections completely (sections which, incidentally, I knew weren’t right, but I thought I didn’t know how to fix, and so I was taking the lazy way out. But as I worked through the minor changes the way to fix the larger problem came clear. A re-read confirmed what I suspected at the end of that process – the story is as good as I can make it at this point in time. And so I sent it off.

So now I wait. But the waiting is not with twiddling fingers, no. Since I submitted my manuscript the idea for my next novel burst, fresh and exciting, onto the page, and now I’m pondering where this journey will lead me.

 

 

 

National Novel Writing Month, for those unfamiliar with the term. And if you are a writer – check it out, it really is an amazing resource for writers, and a great way to get a good start on a novel.

 

 

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November = National Novel Writing Month!

NaNo-2015-Participant-Banner

 

The year draws to an end, and once again it’s time for the biggest event on the writer’s calendar (well, mine at least). This is the eighth year I’ve participated in Nanowrimo, though for the second time I’m rebelling, and working on my current historical novel. At 80,000 words, my aim it to have it edited ready to send out to beta readers by the end of the month  though the rate I’m going it will be lucky if it’s done before the end of the year! Editing has always been  a slower process for me, as I imagine it is for every writer (well – those who don’t edit as they go – I guess), and this time has been no different.

The month started out well. Despite the fact my opening scene was written only two months ago it seems to fit the story well, and needed little editing. The next few scenes were the same, and even when I found a few scenes that needed a little more work I still completed each one with the feeling of satisfaction – that maybe, just maybe, the words were finally forming the story they are meant to tell.

And then I hit Week 2. The scenes feel a little forced – I feel there is some important underlying thing that I’m missing, and no matter how much I edit and write and think and edit some more it’s not coming to me – this missing thing, this thing that will let the story flow, and not force it along…

So I’m tidying up those scenes – just a little – and moving on to the next scene, and the next. And hopefully by the end I will discover what it is those scenes need. And if I can’t find it – perhaps my beta readers will unlock the missing thing…

So I come to this mid-way point, having lost that feeling of satisfaction and achievement I felt at the beginning of the month, but plodding on none-the-less… always thinking about the story, about what it needs and where it’s going…

Nanowrimo 2014

Winner-2014-Web-Banner

This was my seventh year of NanoWrimo. It was a struggle this year. With a 4-month old baby, and the stress of the impending closure of my children’s most wonderful school, I wasn’t sure I would make it. In the last couple of weeks, I seemed to be constantly a day behind, and I kept finding myself wandering off track, and having to stop and regroup and remember exactly where this story needed to go.

Nano 2014 stats

I have some amazing scenes, and some incredibly dull scenes, and a lot of somewhere-in-between scenes. And writing a historical fiction has taught me there’s a hell of a lot of things I have absolutely no idea about, and the research I have done is far from sufficient. So it’s back to the books for a little while now. But with a bit of a luck, and a lot of effort, hopefully this NanoWrimo story will make it out of my own little world, and into the pages of a book.

 

Nanowrimo 2012

Ah Nano! I love it! This is my fifth year of taking part in NaNoWriMo, and I am pleased to say I have been successful each time, some more than others.

This year, I was excited to be writing a sequel for a novel I wrote during Camp Nano in June. To my memory, Red Sky flowed from my fingers onto the page with ease. And I guess it must have been fairly easy, for I finished it in 19 days. Dark Sea, however, was like pulling teeth. Or rather – as I explained to my partner the other day – it was like there was a blockage in the pipe. The inspiration was there, I mostly knew where I was going, but it just took so darn long to get anywhere! I’d sit for hours, and end up with a meagre 500 words, and then all of a sudden, bam! The blockage was gone and the words poured out, and I had an extra 1500 in 45 mins. But the next day, the pipe was blocked again, and I had to go through the painstaking effort of unblocking it before the words would flow again.

Looking back, now I’ve finished the first draft, I’m feeling pretty good about the story as a whole, though there were moments when I thought what I was writing was utter tripe! Mind you, I haven’t been back to reread it yet, that won’t happen for a month or two… probably January… so I have no doubt that there are moments of utter tripe, but I’m hoping that mixed in all the mess there are gems as well, just waiting to be polished.

And now I’ve used every cliche in the book, perhaps I should go do something a little more constructive with my day. 🙂

 

 

 

Nanowrimo Day 7

Progress Update!!

After a couple of shaky days, I’m proud to say that DS has zoomed back into the writing, with 72 words today!! YAY!! With no writing at all on Sunday, and only 20 words yesterday, he was starting to get a bit behind. He’s a 6-year-old boy, so concentration and focus for lengthy periods is not a strong point. But he pulled through today, and now has 49 more than he needs to at this point. (399/350 word goal for Day 7).

My writing is going well too – 2064 words today, bringing my total word count to 12,763 words! Woot!!

Don’t forget, I have four copies of The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton to give away this month, all you have to do to get your name in the draw is comment on any post! :D (For more info check out this post)

First copy drawn tomorrow!!!

Nanwrimo and the Young Writer’s Program, Day 2

The first 53 words

Here is my son’s writing from yesterday – and I don’t know if you can see it, but at the bottom is reads: “hallo Nanowrimo, I love doing this!” How cute!!! 😀

Now, I doubt very much I’ll get in to report on our progress every day, but while I’m able I thought I’d keep you all updated on how my son and I are going.

Today was a slow day for me. I got my word count: 1799 words to be exact, but the writing is still feeling sluggish. DS (Dear Son, for those unsure of what I mean), didn’t want to bother at all – until I reminded him of the awesome t-shirt he’ll be getting at the end, and offered him chocolate as incentive. More specifically, I said that whoever got to their word goal first, would get a row of chocolate. (I should note, that I never bribe my kids with chocolate, so that was a big thing). He won, easily, of course, having only 50 words in comparison to my 1667 word goal. *sigh* next time I will make the challenge harder.

Once he got into it, he wrote his words really quickly, his main character killing of the dragon in record time, and then going home to eat tea and go to bed. I then made hin write another sentence, getting his word count for the day up to 60 words, with a total wordcount of 113. Doing well so far…

My biggest problem I think is that I am still editing as I go – damn inner editor – be gone!! DS got quite worried about proper spelling, stopped now and again to ask me how to spell something. I had the discussion with him about how November is a time for writing, not worrying about spelling and grammar (he may only be 6, but he’s almost better at it than I am lol), and that December is the time to fix all that stuff up.

How’s your writing going?  If you are participating in Nanowrimo – are you reaching your goals?

Don’t forget, I have four copies of The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton to give away this month, all you have to do to get your name in the draw is comment on any post! :D (For more info check out this post)

20 Days to go….

It’s almost that time again!! Time for what you ask? NANOWRIMO of course!

I love it! I’ve been checking out the website today – there’s the Nano Video which has that awesome soundbite at the beginning and end. Let me tell you – that sound is one of my favourite sounds ever. Whenever I hear it I get so excited!!

I’m so happy to see Chris Baty will be back to give a Pep Talk this year! For those of you new to Nano, Chris Baty was actually the founder of Nanowrimo, as he and his friends decided to try and write a novel in 30 days, way back in 2000! I have been watching (via Nano Video) and reading all of Chris’s encouragement and motivation over the last 4 years of Nano. He retired at the end of last year to become a full-time writer, making millions of wrimos around the world very very sad. How could we possibly get through Nano, without him!!?? Thankfully we don’t need to, as he’ll be one of the authors sending wrimo participants a bit of pep throughout the month.

But probably my most favourite thing on this years website is something new. A list of all the authors whose published work began as a Nanowrimo novel. That’s right, Nanowrimo CAN lead to publication. I’ve been waiting and wishing for such a list ever since I learnt that Nano novels had been published. It’s a big list, and I want to print it out and show it to all those people who said writing a novel in 30 days was a waste of time and would never lead to anything! (Except, I didn’t have any of those people say that to me – but I think that’s just because I knew they would say it, so I never ever told them about Nano, because I didn’t want to hear it.)

My Nano planning has began, and I’m so excited about it this year.

Is anyone joining me? What do you like about the new website? And are you planning your novel or will you sit down on Nov 1 and just see what appears on the page?